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Roberts Rightfully Averts Supreme Court’s Controversies in Annual Report

Recent changes in United States Supreme Court justice John Roberts’ yearly financial disclosure report have drawn criticism from legal experts, as the document provides little-to-no clarity on any potential ethical conflicts the justice might face. Roberts’ report, which is required of all federal judges, fails to disclose any holdings in companies which could pose a direct ethical dilemma. This is not the first time Roberts’ financial disclosure reports have been called into question. In his 2009 report, he disclosed a $677,000 cash balance, which experts found odd given that a financial or legal institution would not normally offer such incentives or returns. An inquiry was made to the justice’s office, though it failed to provide an explanation and the matter was later dropped. This year’s report raised further concerns since it fails to address the ethical issues that justices can encounter when serving on the Supreme Court. The code of conduct for federal judges requires them to avoid conflicts of interest, as well as activities which may create the appearance of impropriety. However, the report does not provide information on Roberts’ holdings in any business ventures which could create a potential ethical conflict. While there is no evidence that Roberts is engaging in inappropriate behavior, legal experts have been quick to criticize him for not addressing these ethical issues clearly. “By failing to disclose details of any potential conflicts, Justice Roberts is not meeting his responsibility to be transparent and forthcoming with information about his financial status and investments,” said ethics expert William Abrams of the Institute of Government Ethics. The lack of disclosure has led to increased uncertainty in the Supreme Court, particularly amongst those who rely on the document to ensure that justices are acting in accordance with their code of conduct. The call for greater transparency and the need for justices to address ethical issues are unlikely to go away any time soon, as long as Roberts continues to sidestep such controversies with his yearly report.